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Police Group, Lawmaker Charge NYPD With Institutionalized Racism

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A police group and a local lawmaker gathered Sunday at police headquarters to express outrage, after a white police officer is accused of inappropriately questioning a black driver.

The driver turned out to be the highest-ranking African-American officer in the NYPD.

Chief Douglas Zeigler -- who heads the Community Affairs unit -- was confronted by two officers while sitting in his car last week. Police say one of the officers tried to force open Zeigler's door, even after the chief had identified himself.

The group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and State Senator Eric Adams say the incident is an example of the discrimination that is prevalent in the department. They said they are looking for changes in the department to address what they call institutionalized racism.

"When you have the head of the Community Affairs division stopped at gunpoint, what kind of community affairs do you have?" asked Adams.

Adams says things could have ended badly for Zeigler under different circumstances.

"The only difference between [police shooting victim] Sean Bell and Chief Zeigler, I believe, is that Chief Ziegler didn't make a move towards his glove compartment," said Adams. "If he would have done that, he would have gone to the same destination and went to the morgue instead of going home."

"The NYPD needs to confront this issue to investigate it honestly and immediately," said attorney Norman Siegel. "For [Police] Commissioner [Ray] Kelly and the mayor not to do so would be both a huge mistake and a failure of leadership."

The New York Civil Liberties Union has already filed a lawsuit, charging the Police Department with racial bias. The group says an overwhelming majority of the 145,000 people stopped and frisked in the first quarter of this year were black or Hispanic.

"The New York Police Department has to recognize that it has a problem with racial profiling," said Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU. "It has reached right into the highest ranks."

The office who tried to open Ziegler's door has been placed on modified duty.

An NYPD spokesman said, "He dealt with the chief in a discourteous manner, which is unacceptable."
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